On the very same day the Klein government proudly trumpeted their $7 billion surplus, University of Calgary students received word their tuition is going to go up again next year–by approximately $140 for full-time students.
So begins another chapter in what some of us in the academic world call "The Alberta Disadvantage."
News of our latest cost increase was announced to little fanfare at Tuesday’s Students’ Legislative Council meeting–no surprise, really, since the SU didn’t tell the student body in advance that such an important announcement was to be made. The percentage of increase was agreed upon between SU big-wigs Toby White, Duncan Wojtaszek and Nic Porco in conjunction with their contemporaries in Administration through a process you’ve all come to know and love: tuition consultation. More dialogue between the SU and students as to how much increase, if any, was acceptable would have been nice. Really, one has to wonder how much constituent input went into tuition consultation at all. Given the SU promised to ask students their opinion this time around, we’re a little disappointed.
Of course, the increase isn’t final yet. The proposed hit–a 3.7 per cent increase to match the current inflationary rate–still has to be ratified at the Feb. 1 Board of Governors meeting. Barring a miracle, or perhaps a riot, it will be.
A sober U of C Vice-president Financial Keith Winter delivered Tuesday’s news, in doing so stressing the university’s financial plight. In a lucid moment, Winter stated: "We’d like to take as much [revenue] from the government as possible [and] as little from the students as possible."
Aha… so Administration alleges to be on our side. Even so, Winter wasn’t able to articulate the U of C’s efforts at lobbying for more provincial funding as well as we would have liked. Why not ask the government to part with $3 million instead of the students?
Truth is, this school is stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place when it comes to generating revenue. Costs are rising, but the students don’t want to keep coughing up–and the Klein administration seems thoroughly bored with the topic of post-secondary education. Administration says they had no choice but to raise tuition, by the most they could. But if they truly exhausted all other options, what else could they do? Administration can’t force the government to give them more money.
But should they have to? We live in a province in which the government basically has no choice but to be successful. A dead monkey could run this province. Revenues, mostly tied to the glut of our oil industry, are huge. Neighbouring provinces slobber at our wealth as our budget projections explode in a geyser of black gold.
Yet our operating grants to universities are the third lowest in the country. Why, then, is such a rich province "forcing" its universities and colleges to nickel-and-dime its students? Even Don Getty knew what seems to elude Mr. Klein–the future success of this province is intrinsically linked to how well it educates its populace. High tuition costs deter students and/or send them to other provinces.
Some will take solace in the fact we’re paying the smallest increase in over ten years. Not us. Everyone let us down this time. The SU didn’t ask students what percentage they should shoot for, Administration asked us to accept on faith that they lobbied the government as hard as they could and Klein?… Perhaps the less said about his government, the better.